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June 11, 1997

Varicella-Related Deaths Among Adults— United States, 1997

JAMA. 1997;277(22):1754-1755. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540460020012

DURING January-April 1997, state health departments reported three fatal cases of varicella (chickenpox) to CDC. All three cases occurred in young adult women who were unvaccinated and susceptible to varicella and who were infected by exposure to unvaccinated preschoolaged children with typical cases of varicella. This report summarizes these three cases, which indicate that preventable varicella-related deaths continue to occur in the United States. In addition, the report re-emphasizes the recommended strategies for preventing varicella.

Case 1  On January 19, 1997, a 23-year-old woman in good health had onset of a classic varicella rash. In early January, her 2- and 5-year-old unvaccinated children had had varicella. On January 22, she had onset of shortness of breath and hemoptysis. When she was admitted to a local hospital on January 23, a chest radiograph indicated diffuse alveolar density consistent with varicella pneumonia, and treatment was initiated with oxygen and intravenous